Waldensian Summer, 2007

image of flowers

When you ascend the heights of the mountains in the Piedmonts of Northern Italy it feels as if you have reached the portals of Heaven and must only look up -  into the face of God.  Everywhere you look there are mountains piled higher and higher and the Alpine meadows are covered with flowers.  Waterfalls are tumbling down in every direction.  It is difficult to describe the wonders of this place.  It is something that can only be experienced.

What a blessing to have Pastor Dwight Nelson, along with his wife Karen, join us on our journey this year.  Each morning we met on the veranda of our hotel where Karen Nelson led out in music and Pastor Dwight held our worships.

On our first day we hiked the steep and sometimes treacherous trail to Castelluzzo.  At the top there is a prominent stone abutment with a monument to commemorate the thousands of Waldensians who were tossed to their death for their scripture-based faith.

photo of a group of people

photo of a monument

Here on this ancient historical site Pastor Nelson led out in prayer, asking God for the faith of the Waldensians.

“Upon arrival of what is now a sacred site, I could not help but question the faith of those that stood on the same cliff centuries before.  However, I quickly realized their faith is not what was in need of questioning, it was my own. They stared their death in the face; what would I do?”  (Student Journal)

“I love to think that we carry on a faith that was started long ago by people who believed in it enough to die for, their blood was shed to keep the Bible in our hands, to keep the scriptures pure and to give us this freedom that we so many times take for granted.  It gives you a better perspective to look back and see where your faith is coming from.” (Student Journal)

group photo

Our church service Sabbath was held in one of the first Waldensian Temples built after 1798 when the people were free to have their own church buildings.

photo of a mountaintop church

This Temple is in the Pra Del Tor near the ancient College of the Barbs. We enjoyed visiting the historical sites in this area before visiting the cave where the people had worshiped for hundreds of years. “The church of Angrona was perched on the mountainside in such a way to lead one to believe that the mountain had been created for the church and not the church for the mountain.  It was such a beautiful little church that I can’t ever imagine a more perfect church setting.” (Student Journal)
Pastor Dwight held our communion in the very cave which had been the secret meeting place for Waldensians through the centuries. This cave is more beautiful than earthly cathedrals.  It seemed to be carved by the hand of God for the purpose of worship.  From an opening in the ceiling gentle light streamed down on the stone platform where Pastor Dwight stood. To take part in the communion together in this historical spot was a highly personal and overwhelming experience.

photo of group in a cave

photo of the NelsonsWe spent two days sketching in the village of Clo De Main located on Mount Pelvo over looking Mount Basiglia.  This village is over 500 years old and is built on the ancient route used for centuries as a link over the Alps to reach Spain , or France and is still used today by serious hikers. Enclosed by the quiet beauty and majesty of the Alps students prepared sketches, drawings, and building analyses, accompanied by comments relevant to the study of Waldensian faith.  There were also encouraged to interface spirituality and faith with simplicity of architecture and design.
“Sitting here on the doorstep of a Waldensian home I try to imagine what it must have been like living here when it was inhabited by God’s faithful people.  A crisp breeze passes, the birds chirp their song, and the river echoes the waters journey through the valleys created by the mountains.  I can sense God’s fingertips throughout this place.  I think I could learn to be perfectly content here.  With no distractions from the outside world I could focus on God’s call to my heart.  Such a simple life, but with fulfillment that can satisfy any longing of the soul with true happiness.  If only the entire world could experience such peace as this.  The world throws so many demands at humanity that God’s voice is crowded out and eventually forgotten and replaced.  But here in this village a people remembered to make God their focus and left the world behind for something better.” (Student Journal)photo of old steps to a door
Our journey was completed after we spent three days in the Tichenese side of Switzerland .  We enjoyed sketching in the Swiss Alps in a similar setting to the Piedmonts of Italy.  Riding little cable cars up the side of Monte Tamaro we visited Mario Botta’s Church on the Rock.

The architectural and professional experience gained from being in the Waldensian villages allowed for appreciation of historical ingenuity.  Taking into consideration the sever circumstances of the Waldensians; their ability to build, survive and develop the land for many years proves the class study a worthy opportunity.